GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The use of “serious video games” for health and sports preparation is increasing in Latin America, but the region suffers from a shortage of people with the expertise to create this new kind of tool, Harvard Medical School’s Yuri Quintana said on Thursday.
“There’s an insufficient number of professionals and services all over the world, including Latin America, so we have to find innovative ways to use technology to help more people,” Quintana said during a visit to Guadalajara, where he is teaching a seminar on the topic.
Serious gaming aims to both educate and motivate the user.
In the health sector, some games are designed as part of clinical treatment for patients, while medical professionals are the intended audience for games that demonstrate new techniques, Quintana said.
Serious games are already widely employed in the United States and Europe, while their use is growing in Asia, he said.
In Latin America and other developing regions, however, poverty and lack of Internet access remain obstacles to the broad deployment of serious gaming.
“There have been projects in which this technology has been given to certain people because it has been proven to help patients follow their prescriptions and costs the system less in the long term,” Quintana said.
The initial outlay of providing devices to patients results in savings because they “have been able to keep up with their medications and complete their treatment more quickly,” he said.
The same logic has led some companies to supply serious games and the accompanying technology to employees as an investment in the health of the workforce.
“They need their employees in good health for their companies to succeed, so they are investing more in serious gaming and other programs to promote their well-being,” Quintana said.
Of the roughly 1,000 health serious games and apps that exist, about half have undergone any kind of rigorous evaluation and fewer than 100 carry a certification from a recognized body, he said, adding that the number of medical professionals familiar with the technology is small.